via Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard.
Hayes spent four hours talking with Thompson, and comes away impressed with the former Senator's honesty and authenticity.
"On subjects ranging from Social Security to abortion, the CIA and to Iran, there would be lots of candor over the next several hours. And by the end of the conversation, two unexpected realities had emerged. If he joins the race for the Republican nomination, and if he campaigns the same way he spoke to me last week, Fred Thompson, a mild-mannered, slow-talking southern gentleman, will run as the politically aggressive conservative that George W. Bush hasn't been for four years. And the actor in the race could well be the most authentic personality in the field. "
Hayes gives a pretty thorough biography of Thompson, his background and how he become both political operative and actor. He also relates the way he ran his Tennessee Senate campaign from the back of his red pickup truck after almost quitting the race, uncomfortable with the stilted campaign his handlers were trying to impose on him. Thompson won the race with 61% of the vote, running on the issues of ethics reform and federalism. His belief in federalism is so strong he once was the lone Senate vote against a measure he believed should be left to the states. Hayes also mentions that the interview was unusual in many ways from the normal political interview.
"As we spoke, I was struck by the fact that Thompson didn't seem to be calibrating his answers for a presidential run. On issue after contentious issue, I got the sense from both his manner and the answers he gave me that he was just speaking extemporaneously. Many of his answers would drive a poll-watching political consultant nuts. My suspicions were confirmed when Thompson asked at one point if he could have a transcript of our interview. "I found myself talking on some subjects that I haven't really thought that much about," he explained. "Oh, so this is what I think, huh?"
Another item of note is that Thompson would not comment on other potential candidates of either party, except regarding his friend John McCain, and that only to say that he told McCain before going on to Fox News to indicate that he was thinking of running. Thompson supported McCain's 2000 presidential run. The interview closes with a note about the personal issues involved in campaigning and how difficult it can be for a candidate and his family, but Thompsons seems at ease with it.
"It's not pleasant, but it's not that important anymore because you're straight with your family, you have a level of understanding and knowledge about your family, and they with you, and with the man upstairs, and that's that. You know, ain't really much past that. And it kind of frees you up in a way."
Another note is that supporter and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has all but announced that Thompson is running, one of the reasons for last week's revalation about Thompson's medical condition of non-Hodgekin's lymphoma, which is not life threatening and easily treatable, according to the good Dr. Frist.